A few days ago, Maurice Lacroix launched its Aikon Venturer GMT digitally and simultaneously inaugurated its new studio to monitor online initiatives. To find out more about the brand’s new strategy, we interviewed the brand’s Managing Director, Stéphane Waser, and International Product and Marketing Director, Thiebaut Bentz.
Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – 2020 has been a challenging year for the watch industry with the COVID-19 pandemic. How has the brand navigated this period?
Stéphane Waser – Of course, it was a very challenging environment. But thanks to the fact that we were already well set up in the field of digitization, it has been easier to adapt to the situation. Naturally, we went even further in the field of digitization. This was essential to be agile and to do business. Two examples: our sales team attended many training sessions because selling digitally is something you need to learn; we also realized that people need more and more video material. This is why we created this digital studio (Editor’s Note: this interview was conducted in the new digital studio) from which we can offer webcast training, webinars, interviews and from which we have just launched the new Aikon Venturer GMT.
Thiebaut Bentz – The period was also instrumental in working on the brand’s strategy. With less travelling involved, we had more time with the teams and could prepare more in-depth our 2021 marketing plan.
Stéphane Waser – And finally, we gained market share, delivering a better performance than the market average. As DKSH announced, we have been profitable for the second year in a row despite the context. We knew from the beginning of the pandemic we had to adapt and to redefine, to relearn the way we are working.
You have just announced that the brand will take part in the digital edition of Watches & Wonders next April. The landscape of industry fairs has changed dramatically. What is your take on this evolution?
Stéphane Waser – The best option is always to present watches physically. Nothing replaces touching and feeling a watch in person. For now, technological solutions allow us to present watches with an experience that is getting as close as possible to reality. It does not replace looking at the watches in person, this is an emotional buy… but we are embracing these solutions. We started with international roadshow behind the official and major fair two years ago, now we launch watches digitally. We try to be as agile as possible. But we will always need to meet clients.
The Aikon has been a game-changer for the brand. Can you tell us about its impact on the brand?
Stéphane Waser – Aikon is a response to three elements. First, we needed to strengthen the brand image. Second, the products that people knew most about were not commercial, because our core target is a retail price from CHF 1,000 to 3,000. Third, we needed to create an aspirational product for millennials, a great quality watch at an affordable price like the Aikon Quartz. With Eliros, we have something in that price range, but the Aikon quartz is an excellent offer.
The second phase was when we launched the automatic version of the Aikon. Today it is one of our bestsellers. Sales are quite impressive. For the first time last year, we sold more automatic than quartz. What Aikon has brought to the brand surpassed our expectations! We are turning more and more into a mechanical watch brand, which is promising for our image and development.
What are the other pillars of the collection?
Thiebaut Bentz – Next to this sporty-chic collection, the Pontos is a more timeless, elegant option with day-date or chronograph models. The Eliros is an important collection because this is our most accessible watch range. It allows us to target a wider audience and generate great visibility with a trendy, fashionable collection.
And then there is the Masterpiece collection. Equipped with manufacture mechanical movements, it allows us to showcase our watchmaking expertise and know-how.
What have been the main evolutions in production?
Stéphane Waser – We have mainly evolved in the field of operations. 2006 is an important date for our manufacture with the first in-house calibres, then in 2009, we presented our first automatic calibre and then we went even further with Gravity, developing our own regulating organ together with Atokalpa. In 2016-17, we focused our efforts on our in-house assembly lines. We redefined the entire production organization and processes, reorganized our supply chain. The result of this long lead-time have been dramatically reduced and our time to market is excellent today.
How has distribution evolved?
Stéphane Waser – A large part of our international distribution – about 70% – is ‘owned’ with DKSH subsidiaries. We have DKSH North America, DKSH Watches Asia, DKSH Luxury & Lifestyle Europe. And for other markets, we work with 3rd party distributors. We do not operate our own boutiques but service about 1,800 retailers globally.
Online sales have developed significantly, in particular for mature markets such as China and US with strong, pure players. In Europe, several key accounts are also strong online, I could name Kaufhof or Christ in Germany, El Corte Ingles in Spain or Signet in the UK. Overall, in 2020, online sales (via our own store or partner stores) represented 30% of our total business.
Thiebaut Bentz – What is also really interesting is that the average basket value is increasing on a regular basis. What we sell online is very similar to what we sell in brick-and-mortar locations. This is a very positive development.
What have been your marketing priorities?
Thiebaut Bentz – We have announced several marketing initiatives, partnerships and brand friends. They all have one thing in common: our active, urban sponsoring platform. We have become recently the official timekeeper of the Formula E Mahindra Racing team, of several marathons, and there is more to come. These all share the same urban dimension. We define ourselves as an urban, active brand.
Of course, digital is key. Our YouTube premiere this morning is an excellent example and this is not the last. Our hashtag #pulseofthecity perfectly illustrates this brand direction.
More details about the brand at www.mauricelacroix.com.